I have been experimenting with my Pentax for a few weeks now and as I have written in a previous post, I am hooked. Here are my current arguments for taking the plunge into medium format film with a Pentax 645. I hope I am convincing.
- It is great value. A Pentax 645N is not as expensive to purchase as you might think. I shipped mine in from Japan through ebay for less than £800 with AF 2.8 lens included.
- It is easy to use. No endless digital menus to click through that leave you thinking if you have maybe missed something. You set a few dials (f-stop, exposure compenation, metering mode) and then crack on with taking a few photos. Nothing to it.
- You are encouraged to be patient. Each shot will cost you about £1.20 so you wait until you have what you want in the viewfinder and then take the shot. While you wait, you can enjoy exploring every part of the frame with your gaze since the 6×4.5cm film and f2.8 lens is such a gorgeous combination. The wait for the film to return from the lab is also a pleasing wait – send your film off and get on with your life. When the e-mail with the link to the scans arrives, it feels like an unexpected visit from an old friend.
- It costs money to be a film photographer. But isn’t that why we take up a hobby? To spend money? Anybody who paid out the same sort of initial outlay on a fish tank soon realises that they have to spend a similar amount of money each month on replenishing the fish stock and keeping it clean. You might as well spend forty odd quid a month on 32 gorgeous photographs. At last they are timeless. Fish die.
- It is a conversation piece. “Wow; that is reassuringly heavy!”, was the comment from a portrait client who picked it up for a moment. While its ergonomics and design are a little outdated, it feels great in the hand and looks the part too. Clients can see you are serious about photography.
- The results are beautiful. There is beautiful depth to the photos it produces. There is a definite 3-D feel with your subject seemingly occupying its own space but remaining connected to the space around it. Digital SLRs just cannot achieve the same look.
- Very little post-processing work is required. A good lab does exposure adjustments for you and because you took your time composing each shot, you removed any potential need to crop at the same time. In comparison to 35mm film and digital, there is so little noise and artefacts too. Thus, a photo taken on medium format can be enlarged several times without noticeable loss of quality.
- Film is getting cheaper. Or at least it will, if more people take note of this article and the hype out there and take the plunge into film photography.
- It makes me nostalgic. Call me old-fashioned but there is something romantic about film and medium format. Hearing the guttural noise of the shutter, waiting for it to wind back after your 16 exposures and then popping the film in an envelope and in the post make it all a very authentic, tactile, satisfying experience. I feel connected to my hobby; it feels more like an art.
As I continue to use and enjoy my Pentax 645N, I am sure I will come up with more reasons to buy one. When I do, I’ll be sure to update you.
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All images © Daniel Eglin. Please do not use without permission.